January 21


Why Eating Less Food Doesn’t Mean Losing More Weight

By Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS, LDN

January 21, 2019

minutes read time


When trying to lose weight, you’ve probably said one of these things to yourself before…

“I’m eating less calories and less and yet I can’t get the scale to budge!”


“I’m watching my calories like a hawk but the weight is coming out of nowhere!”

The thing is, you can watch your calories like a hawk or even restrict them to a ridiculously low level…that doesn’t mean you’ll magically lose weight.


I never thought you’d ask. For a few reasons, really. It could be that you’ve got something going on in your gut that’s creating an environment where your body hangs on to weight. It could be that you’ve played the calorie restriction game for so long, your metabolism has tanked. Or it could be the small number of calories you are eating are just junky calories.

Not a super easy question to answer, but I’m going to give you some tips and actionable steps to get you moving in the right direction. Just remember, each person is unique…and your reason for not losing weight is unique too!

Let’s dive in, shall we?


The metabolism is a hot word. Many women think their metabolism is to blame for weight gain as they age. They would be partly correct. The metabolism has a lot to do with the conversion of food to energy. But most see it as just that…how fast or slow we burn energy.

It’s actually so much more than that. The metabolism is used to convert food into basic building blocks of the body like muscles and the interworking of cells. And it helps rid the body of waste. The liver and kidneys play a big role there was well. But, so does the metabolism.

And if you don’t take care of it, it’s not going to take care of you. Here are some ways you don’t take care of your metabolism:

Eating too few calories to keep it moving
Lack of quality exercise
Lack of water intake
Eating processed foods
Not focusing on sleep
Having too much stress in your life
Not eating enough protein throughout the day
Yo-yo dieting makes it confused

Be honest, how many of these are you guilty of? Up until 5ish years ago, I was guilty of them all. Most women are. This is why when you hit the mid-30s, the weight seems to start creeping up.

Ways to Boost the Metabolism

So, you know what you’ve been doing to tank your metabolism. Let’s chat about how you can ramp it back up!

Stop restricting your calories so much! This is a tough one because a lot of women equate eating more with gaining weight. The truth is, you need to eat more to STOP gaining weight. But you need to do this slow. If you have no clue how much you’re eating, log your food in an online food diary for one day. I’m a big proponent of NOT logging (because it can become obsessive) so don’t get into doing this every day.

If you’re eating less than 1200 calories per day, you’re eating too little. Now, this number is different for everyone. And for each of my clients, I calculate their target calories based on them and their needs. But by and large, most people need more than 1200 calories per day. So, if you find that you’re eating less than that…definitely start eating more. But start slow!

Watch your water intake. Most people don’t get enough. Aside from the obvious health benefits of drinking enough water, water boosts your metabolism as well. Drink a lot and drink early! Start your day with 8-10 oz of water.

Exercising regularly will boost your metabolism. Ensuring you’re getting a good mix of building muscle and cardiovascular exercise is key. Women tend to focus on burning calories. The truth is, you need muscle, girl! Don’t be afraid to pick up those weights…they’ll help ramp up your metabolism.

And pay attention to the content of your calories. We’ll chat more about that below…

Calorie Restriction

We’ve been told for years that we need to work out more and eat less in order to lose weight. I find these parameters, while not factually incorrect, to be ridiculously vague. There’s a lot missing from that phrase. It leaves you with a lot of questions:

What kind of food?
How many calories?
How often do I need to work out?
If I cut fat, I can cut calories…that’s good, right?

See…lots of questions. Then you have people pushing “a calorie is a calorie.” No. And I wish they’d stop pushing that. So, do you need to restrict your calories?

Yes and no. This is different for a lot of people and it actually depends on a lot of different factors.

Example 1:

For instance, I had a client that came to me for weight loss. She couldn’t lose weight at all. She was eating MORE than her daily calorie target. You hear that…MORE calories than her body needed! And she lost weight. Why? Because the calories she was eating was all wrong.

She was eating processed foods, tons of refined carbs, and very little vegetables. Her daily target was 1800 calories/day. But she was easily consuming 2100 calories/day. All we did was change the content of her food. This happens to be step one with a lot of my clients. We exchanged refined carbs for whole grains. We exchanged a processed lunch for leftovers from dinner. And we got her eating more vegetables than she had in a long time.

In a span of 3-months, she lost 15 pounds and was consuming 2100 calories/day. I know. You’re calling bullshit. I only tell the truth sister! She gained weight because she wasn’t feeding her body any nutrients. Yes, she was hitting her calorie target but she wasn’t feeding her cells. So, we fed her cells and her body responded.

Example 2:

I use this example a lot when giving talks. Because it’s visually appealing and something most people can relate to. Picture you’re holding some food. In one hand, you’ve got Hunt’s fat-free chocolate snack pack pudding cup. And in the other hand, you’ve got an avocado.

Calories – Hunt’s pudding (100 calories); avocado (300+ calories)

If you’re only focusing on the calories, you’re going to lean towards one food over the other. Right? A lot of people make this mistake. But here’s where the difference lies…it’s the content of those calories that matter.

A pudding cup gets you nothing except delicious pudding. It likely won’t get you closer to your goal. It won’t give you energy. In fact, it will give you more sugar cravings and it will create an energy crash.

The avocado, while triple the calories, contains protein, healthy fats, potassium and magnesium for electrolytes balance, and B vitamins for energy. It will help you feel fuller for longer. You get the picture.

So…while calories matter, the content of those calories matters much more in my opinion. Ditch the processed foods and reach for whole foods to feed your body!

Wrap Up

Weight loss can be a tough nut to crack for some. And for others, it’s easy peasy! If you’re looking for where to start, start with your diet. What’s the content look like? Can you exchange some less than amazing foods for others? If you feel that you’ve done that…check out your metabolism! Do some things to ramp it up. And if you feel you’ve done that as well…call me!

Like I said at the beginning, there’s no one silver bullet for everyone. For most, it’s a variety of things. Pick one and work that until it’s a routine. And then pick another.

In the comments below, let me know one thing you’ve done in the past that caused your metabolism to tank.


Feinman, R. D., & Fine, E. J. (2004). “A calorie is a calorie” violates the second law of thermodynamics. Nutrition journal3, 9. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-3-9

Whigham, L. D., Valentine, A. R., Johnson, L. K., Zhang, Z., Atkinson, R. L., & Tanumihardjo, S. A. (2012). Increased vegetable and fruit consumption during weight loss effort correlates with increased weight and fat loss. Nutrition & diabetes2(10), e48. https://doi.org/10.1038/nutd.2012.22

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